Physicians should counsel patients about sex life after cardiac event

July 29, 2013
This infographic from the article outlines healthcare professionals are urged to counsel heart and stroke patients on how to resume a healthy sex life. Credit: Source: American Heart Association/European Society of Cardiology Consensus Statement; E. Steinke

Healthcare professionals are urged to counsel heart and stroke patients on how to resume a healthy sex life, according to a joint statement published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation and the European Heart Journal. It is the first scientific statement to offer detailed guidance for patients.

"Patients are anxious and often afraid sex will trigger another cardiac event – but the topic sometimes gets passed over because of embarrassment or discomfort," said Elaine Steinke, A.P.R.N., Ph.D., lead author of the statement and professor of nursing at Wichita State University in Kansas.

The statement is the first to provide "how to" information about resuming sexual activities and applies to patients who have had a heart attack, , stroke, received an implanted heart device or have other , as well as their partners.

Past recommendations focused on when to resume sex, risks with sex, and managing medications.

Among the recommendations, healthcare providers should:

  • routinely assess all patients after a cardiac event and during follow-up visits to determine if the patient is healthy enough to resume sexual activities;
  • give individualized, structured counseling based on specific needs and medical condition;
  • discuss recommended positions, how to be intimate without having sexual intercourse and when to resume sexual activity; and counsel all patients regardless of gender, age and .

"There are many barriers or misconceptions that inhibit discussions about sex. Some healthcare professionals may believe the patient does not want this information, but we have found it is easier for the healthcare provider to start the discussion than for the patient to bring up these issues", said Tiny Jaarsma, R.N., N.F.E.S.C., co-chair of the task force on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology's Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions and a professor at the Linköping University, Sweden.

"Time constraints or just plain embarrassment should not be an excuse for avoiding these topics that are essential to the cardiac patient's mental and physical health," said Jaarsma.

Exercise stress testing is recommended for some patients to determine if the heart is strong enough to resume sexual activity. Physical activities such as brisk walking may be suggested for some heart patients before resuming sexual activity. Patients may be advised that the stress of extramarital could pose a health risk for people with heart disease, the authors note.

In addition, while heart medications can affect sex drive and function in both men and women, patients should talk to their healthcare provider before stopping any medications, according to the statement. A healthcare provider can determine if sexual problems are caused by the drug or an underlying condition such as depression.

The recommendations were developed from evidence-based research on sex counseling.

"Starting a conversation about sex can be easily included in patient discussions, particularly when discussing sex as part of recommendations for exercise. All healthcare providers should be ready and willing to address these areas," Steinke said. That includes cardiologists, primary care practitioners, nurses, nurse practitioners and physical therapists. Providers may need additional training on sex counseling, she said.

Explore further: Women want doctors' help in facing fears about sex after heart attack

Related Stories

Women want doctors' help in facing fears about sex after heart attack

July 24, 2013
Women think it would be easier to overcome their fears of sex after having a heart attack if their doctors gave them more information, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Sexual activity is safe for most heart, stroke patients

January 19, 2012
If you have stable cardiovascular disease, it is more than likely that you can safely engage in sexual activity, according to an American Heart Association scientific statement.

Doctors' advice key in heart attack victims' return to healthy sex life

May 9, 2012
Patients who were sexually active before suffering a heart attack were one and a half times more likely to recapture their sex lives if they received guidance on the topic before leaving the hospital, a new study finds.

Understanding a heart patients' quality of life can improve outcomes

May 6, 2013
Completing a quality-of-life questionnaire at a healthcare provider's office could help patients live longer and live better, according to a new scientific statement published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart ...

AHA statement: People with congenital heart disease need physical activity

April 29, 2013
A new scientific statement from the American Heart Associations reminds physicians and people with congenital heart disease that regular physical activity is still important and should be promoted.

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.